Saanichton, BC

Dr. Miguel A. Lipka

Gastrointestinal Cancer

This is categorized under:

Gastrointestinal cancers include cancers of the anus, colon, bile duct, esophagus, liver, pancreas, peritoneal cavity, rectum, small intestine and stomach. In North America, colorectal is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is the third most common type of cancer in both men and women. As a group, gastrointestinal cancers are the most common cancers.

Esophageal Cancer

Cancer of the esophagus is divided into two major types: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, depending on the type of cells that are malignant.

  • Squamous cell carcinomas arise in cells that line the upper two-thirds of the esophagus.
  • Adenocarcinomas usually develop in the glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus. The treatment of these types may be similar but depends upon the details of each individual case.

Early esophageal cancer usually does not cause symptoms. However, as the cancer grows, symptoms may include:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Severe weight loss
  • Pain in the throat or back, behind the breastbone or between the shoulder blades
  • Hoarseness or chronic cough
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing up blood

Small and localized tumors are treated surgically with curative intent. Larger tumors are typically not operable and are treated with palliative care. Their growth can still be delayed with chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of the two. In some cases chemo- and radiotherapy can render these larger tumors operable. Prognosis depends on the extent of the disease and other medical problems, but is fairly poor.

Stomach Cancer

Cancer of the stomach, also called gastric cancer, can be difficult to detect before it has spread. Stomach cancer causes about 800,000 deaths worldwide per year.

Often, there are no symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms do occur, they may include the following:

  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bleeding, including vomiting blood or having blood in the stool

As with any cancer, treatment is adapted to fit each person's individual needs and depends on the size, location, and extent of the tumor, the stage of the disease, and general health.

Cancer of the stomach is difficult to cure unless it is found in an early stage (before it has begun to spread). Unfortunately, because early stomach cancer causes few symptoms, the disease is usually advanced when the diagnosis is made. Treatment for stomach cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.